26 Feb 2018

Tongan PM still not fully recovered from illness

7:23 am on 26 February 2018

Tonga's Prime Minister says he is continuing to take a step back from his duties due to ill health.

Tonga Prime Minister, 'Akilisi Pohiva

Tonga Prime Minister, 'Akilisi Pohiva Photo: RNZ Pacific / Koro Vaka'uta

Last month 'Akilisi Pohiva began his second term in the local intensive care unit with an unspecified illness.

Mr Pohiva said he had still not recovered and didn't know how long it would take before he will be. In the meantime he said he was resting and trying not to be too involved in the workings of government.

Mr Pohiva explained that he was following doctors' orders.

"They advised me not to be involved, to get away from Tonga for a while and then come back but I can't. I have to have a look at what had happened and our plan for the future," Mr Pohiva explained.

"I do not feel good if I leave the country, but I must make sure that I do not get involved. Let the ministers do the work, let me give direction when there is a need to do so."

Meanwhile, Mr Pohiva told RNZ Pacific that he was confident in Tonga's ability to bounce back from the devastation caused by Cyclone Gita.

The storm earlier this month severely damaged buildings and crops and left many homeless.

The Prime Minister said he had taken a back seat to disaster officials but was happy with the job they were doing, despite some criticism from the public.

Reforms still a priority

Tonga's next parliamentary session is due to start on 5 March and Mr Pohiva said the most pressing need in the house would obviously be post-cyclone recovery.

But the Prime Minister said that once the recovery from Cyclone Gita had been dealt with, he would continue to push for political reform.

In August 2017 King Tupou VI dissolved parliament amid concerns the government was acting unconstitutionally and trying to gather more power for itself.

Mr Pohiva said the cabinet should maintain all executive power and they should not be dictated to by the King's Privy Council.

According to the Prime Minister, he has no choice but to follow the same pathway as his previous administration.

"It is not a matter of choice, it is matter of principle. And I have to do it but in a way that His Majesty does not fear. It could be done. Compromise."

"This is the way for the future," he said. "It's not easy, but I have to deal with it, I have to make sure that, this is my last term, after the four years all these reforms are put in place for the people who have followed me to continue on."

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